Ethyn Buotte, right, is comforted by his attorney, Jeffrey Wilson on Friday morning in Franklin County Superior Court in Farmington as Buotte reacts to Justice Robert Muller reading the obituary of Griffyn Smith, who was killed in a crash exactly a year ago in a car Buotte was driving. Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham

FARMINGTON — A Franklin County justice sentenced a Rumford man Friday to serve three years of a 10-year sentence for driving drunk and under the influence of drugs when his car crashed in Weld on May 31, 2018, and a Dixfield man was killed.

Upon his release from prison, Ethyn Eric Buotte, 19, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter Friday in Franklin County Superior Court, will serve four years probation in connection to the death of  his best friend and neighbor, 19-year-old Griffyn Smith.

Smith was well liked and was a four-time state champion wrestler when he attended Dirigo High School in Dixfield. He earned an associate’s degree at college as a precision machinist and had planned to enter the U.S. Navy. He had studied precision machining in college and graduated with an associates degree.

Buotte’s guilty plea was part of a partially negotiated agreement with the sentence being 10 years with the suspended portion of it capped at three years, Deputy District Attorney James Andrews said.

Ethyn Buotte enters Franklin County Superior Court in Farmington Friday morning for his sentencing. Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham

The state dismissed a charge of operating under the influence resulting in death.

Andrews read a summary of the facts before Buotte was sentenced.

If the case went to trial, the court would have heard from several witnesses including a front-seat passenger Alysa St. Cyr,  police and  experts.

According to Andrews, Buotte was 18 and driving a 2008 Toyota Corolla at 71 mph in a 35 mph zone when he lost control of the car at about 11:30 p.m. on the West Side Road in Weld. Smith was a passenger in the back seat of the car. The car started to spin, rolled over several times. The car hit a tree and the roof imploded and came down on Smith. The car continued to spin and Smith was ejected. The cause of Smith’s death was blunt force trauma, Andrews said.

Evidence shows that Buotte had been drinking alcohol and there was a presence of marijuana and had snorted an opioid painkiller — hydrocodone and had taken a prescription medicine in his system.

According to St. Cyr, Buotte moved the car in an attempt to leave the scene. She called 911, according to Andrews. Buotte moved Smith’s body and tried to resuscitate him. Buotte also burned some evidence — a pair of pants to before first responders arrived, St. Cyr told police. He had a blood-alcohol level 0.138%  about two hours after the crash, Andrews said.

Defense attorney Jeffrey Wilson said Buotte  disagrees with some of the state’s evidence, including that he attempted to leave the scene and burned evidence.  Wilson had motions to suppress evidence filed with the court but Buotte told him not to go through with them because he wants to take responsibility for his actions, Wilson said.  He withdrew those motions.

There were lots of tears in the courtroom from both side, even after the sentencing was over.

This was a fatal crash that resulted in layer after layer of reckless conduct, Andrews said. Buotte also had two contacts with police within two months of the crash, one of those resulted in a conviction on a misdemeanor charge of terrorizing, he said.

Andrews argued for Buotte to serve three years while Wilson argued for nine months and a day. The latter means it would be a sentence to the Department of Corrections and would allow Buotte could continue to better himself.

Ethyn Buotte, right, listens as his attorney, Jeffrey Wilson addresses Justice Robert Muller in Franklin County Superior Court in Farmington Friday morning. Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham

“Ethyn has the rest of his life to live and my son has none,” Smith’s mother Cheryl Smith said. She said her family has been very compassionate with Buotte.

“It is only fair he get the full amount,” Smith said, meaning the plea agreement’s three-year cap.

Other family members also asked for him to serve the three years.

Cindy Smith Prakash and Allison Smith Daley, Griffyn’s aunts, both addressed the court. Prakash read from a prepared statement. She told the court her nephew was killed by Buotte’s intentional, selfish and senseless actions. In a cruel twist of fate, it was on his parents wedding anniversary, she said. The car Buotte was driving was unsafe and had two spare donut tires on it, she said.

“I can’t imagine the terror that Griffyn experienced,” Prakash said, right before his death. “Griffyn actually cared about you, Ethyn, when others didn’t,” she said.

When she started to cry harder, Daley took over reading the statement.

In part, she said, “A bright shining light of a young man is now gone.”

A case worker for Buotte said for the past six to nine months he has not only worked hard to better himself, he has set some goals with one of them being to speak youth to help them not make the mistakes he made.

Buotte has started to take control of his life, Wilson said, and even went back and finished high school. Buotte was just 18 at the time, barely an adult, and is very remorseful of what happened. Buotte wanted the Smiths kept informed of what was going on in the case. Buotte requested a day be added to the nine months so that he would serve his sentence in the Department of Corrections facility and not a county jail.

Buotte spoke directly to Errin and Cheryl Smith, Griffyn’s parents, and apologized more than once to the family, and he recognized that was not enough. He thinks of Griffyn constantly and wishes he could undo that night. He also apologized to his family and the community.

“I will never be able to make this right,” he said.”I want to reach out to young adults to keep them from doing the same things I did.”

Once Buotte was sentenced and before he was taken into custody, he spoke to the family personally. It ended with a handshake from Smith’s father and a hug from Smith’s mother.

Cheryl Smith went over and hugged Buotte’s family members.

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